yogi-berra-quotes-13MOSESGLOBEArguably one of the greatest American philosophers of the 20th Century, Yogi Berra, is credited with saying: “when you come to a for in the road take it!”     Well, we are doing just that. To date we have been concerned with forces leading to increasingly more progressive politics, albeit in fits and starts, during the period 1990-2040, but especially beginning in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama. Our pieces have stressed that with Affordable Health Care, initiatives on the environment, the Depression-dodging stimulus package, and many  incremental steps the country has moved slowly back toward the center. But in the short term, we are not so sure. And as Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman have pointed out in domestic and foreign policy, the “slouching toward progressive rationality,” and difficulties of the Obama administration are not primarily of Obama’s making.

So here is the fork this blog is taking: 1. We want to become more involved in discussing foreign policy questions, really as much a part of a progressive agenda as domestic policy; we will have pieces on current and future dilemmas by Shiels and Lerman, 2. We want to open up a debate about how progressives should proceed in the next five years. It is clear that there is unprecedented polarization and deadlock, likely to continue until 2016. So We, The Blog, have the same choices that progressive “real world” strategists do: 1. shall we turn to a more wrathful, (read honest), fusillade against the reactionary, obstructionist forces of the Boehner/McConnell Congress and its Tea Party “Observers.”? or

2. should we stick with the thesis that incremental, dogged, centrist change– the style seemingly favored by Obama and the Clintons, will inch us forward, while the country tires of the unrelenting negativity of the Republican Congress. Republican, perhaps, only until 2016. The senate of course is technically Democratic and with luck may remain so. But with the lavish use of the filibuster, it is effectively neutralized even if it is lucky enough to hold on through the next election cycle. A mantra increasingly gaining traction among commentators is: 2014 will be a bad year for the Democrats, 2016 will be a Horrible year for the Republicans. More on this to come!


So What’s Wrong With Inequality?: the Case for Elites

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This website has from the outset seemed dedicated to the proposition that after a conservative interregnum of almost 50 years (1980-2008) the country was returning and would Inevitably return to a more Progressive-New Deal- Great Society mentality, updated for the decades 2 through 5 of the Twenty First Century. And this is certainly true.


But we will be less interesting, and just one of dozens of blogging talk-athons about the evils of socio-economic inequality and the selfishness of the rich, if all we did was present thought-clips promoting progressive ideas and agendas. Progressives cannot prevail, their progress will be sluggish—mark or words—if we cannot get inside the heads of the following: conservative Republicans (are their any other kind), Tea Party “Republicans,” Independents wary of too much Obama and Clinton (Hillary And Bill) kinds of changes, and last—but not least—the great 40-50% of adults who do Not regularly vote.

So we offer the following “contrarian” thought bullets using the voice of someone who is making a good case for “enlightened” or realistic elites—elites of wealth and accomplishment and the desire that government and academia not try to tamper with this existing order:


  • Item- Historically, from Egyptian, Mesopotamian and early Chinese times, an elite class has governed: this has been the natural order of things; they have held a vastly disproportionate share of their societies’ wealth, they were true one per-centers in every sense of the word


  • This elite class has been responsible for much of what we study in history: the building of great temples and public buildings, the forging of ever larger states and empires, the development of agriculture, irrigation, ever larger urban areas, learning and especially writing, making their territories safe for the religions and social practices of their choice…i.e. Pyramids, jungle and desert Temples, fortified towns, cathedrals and castles, great chateaux and manor houses: all of these are elite, one percent undertakings and accomplishments
  • Eventually something that would be called universities and physical infrastructure: roads, bridges, harbors, and facilities to foster trade and exploration would be promoted by this elite class, as would, of course, the arts of warfare: defensive and offensive
  • Many of the wealthiest “elite” Americans, and more so than Europeans or other population “zones—are only a few generations, perhaps only one—away from humble, even poor origins. Yet the Henry Fords and Andrew Carnegies, with no silver spoon-feeding, built great industrial empires and spread wealth and ingenuity+- around in different but impressive ways
  • It can be argued that to a degree outstanding talent and drive have fueled social mobility in America, the “Horatio Alger” phenomenon, though it is more accurate to say that these exceptional cases nourish a kind of cultural narrative that Americans seem to Need to believe in because there are many outstanding examples, and also many examples in which poverty, race, gender, and importantly bad luck or timing Prevented or impeded social mobility in spite of themselves
  • There is a plausible argument that concentrations of capital, from the Pyramids to cathedrals to railroads to Silicon Valley have made possible critical masses of construction, urbanization, exploration, invention and technology, economies of scale – to offer a somewhat random sample of wealth generated social “goods;” and of course it can be argued in all of these cases that the wealth concentrations have been abused, wasteful in many conspicuous consumption (read T. Veblen) cases
  • The flaws in the Iron Law of Oligarchy (Michels) and the tendency of wealth—not always fairly earned—to perpetuate itself, will be teased out in future posts, but we emphasize that the wealthy, the Social Darwinist’s, the “aristocrats or plutocrats” depending on your point of view have some compelling points to make, and these points must be taken seriously… Marx himself stood in awe of  “just pre-Gilded Age capitalism” as the most powerful social force of history to that time (the 1840’s to 1870’s) and then went on to critique it in devastating fashion, focusing partly on the cost to the working classes, who did not rise up—at least in the way he predicted… So we end with recognition of the considerable accomplishments of elites and then capitalist elites, and we will want to fast forward to the 21st Century and examine both the rationale for concentrations of wealth, for “neo-laissez faire”, and the considerable costs to the poor and middle classes and the unique Dysfunctions of many forms of inequality






My one point is that–throughout the nation–adjunct faculty have become the cheap labor base on which U.S. higher education now stands. I know that U.S. higher education is overly expensive, but it’s not adjunct faculty compensation that makes it so.

There is no excuse to pay an adjunct anything less that the equivalent amount that a full-time faculty member receives for the same amount of work.

I also am aware that colleges and universities have extended their programs on the backs of this substandard adjunct compensation. They would likely go bankrupt (or would have to severely cut back the number of students they teach), if they depended on their own resources to pay adjuncts fairly.

Perhaps some improvement could come from reallocation of their own resources, but that is unlikely to get us very far.

The only (though politically very difficult) solution is to tell the American people and their elected representatives (yes, lobbying) that, for all the expenses they are already paying, they are receiving higher education on the cheap–dependent on unconscionable faculty salaries–and through public policies (e.g., progressive taxation) the public has to aid our colleges and universities to end this exploitation.






  • How to “bring unions back,” updated if need be, so that they are more of a force to reckon with in U.S. politics… (this will probably involve beefing up left-to-center think tanks and gradual infiltration into the essentially passive and spineless media)


  • Related: Progressives: Democrats, Independents, and (if there are any left) Republicans need to recruit millionaires/billionaires, 1%-ers, 10%-ers to bankroll publicity, websites, newspapers, journals, electronic media (radio, TV, I-Net) for progressive causes: environment, education, poor, women, minorities, Labor, infrastructure, you-name-it… offset or “mine” Citizens United for their own purposes


  • Related- Progressives need to stop playing softball; they can occupy the center ground, and in reddish states even move a bit right but comfortably to the left of the hard-Red intransigents (of which there are plenty)… Rachel Maddow and Thomas Frank are a good examples of people who can play “hardball” and administer the kind of sane medicine to the public, as an antidote to the  Conservative talk-meisters, not to mention radio nut-cases


  • Related- In the near future, the climate of, say, the mid-1960s—1970’s, the 1930s, or the T. Roosevelt-Taft-Wilson period, 1901-1915, may not be attainable in the U.S., with its present extreme polarization and federal government dysfunction… but the tide is turning, especially in the Executive branch… keeping an eye on Texas, the White House may well be out of reach for the Republicans by 2020 (and likely in 2016)… it will take winning hearts and minds for the Congressional districts/ House elections to turn the country around for the progressives


  • Related-  Progressives have to realize that while their agenda is, without doubt, the sane way to go, and that in today’s political climate “fair and balanced” is a myth if, for example, that means Intellectually buying into the idea of splitting the difference between the climate-change deniers and the cutting edge climate environmentalists, STILL politically they have to face the fact that there are a lot of conservative folks out there, voters who have been Reaganized and have little memory of the party of Dirksen or Javits… We’re not just talking about the 20-25% Tea Party types who have drunk the kool-aid and are out of reach, but the next 25% who voted for McCain and Romney… they must be coaxed into reason (did someone say Bill Clinton?) a bit at a time and we, at , are staking our reputation on the slow steady leftward drift of the Zeitgeist in the U.S. from now through 2050 and beyond… “marriage equality” is a good sign, maybe in ten years or so, flag lapel pins for politicians will become “declasse


  • We have to face up to the fact—and make this palatable—that at least some increase in taxation, especially at the higher levels, has got to happen, to shore up Medicare and Social Security, for starters… the Grover Norquist and company argument that taxation is outdated are not mentally living on this planet, but too many people buy their pitch… this is fundamental change, let’s face it, and it will be an uphill climb.





PAUL KRUGMANhere-comes-the-one-percenters

Bullet points in a recent op ed piece by Krugman in the New York Times with my commentary in brackets; note that I paraphrase and interpret Krugman rather than quoting him:
1. Beyond the 1 % there is a group of very, very rich Americans with spectacular concentrations of wealth: 25 men, in this case hedge fund speculators who (combined) earned $25 billion in 2013

2. These men and others like them in different financial sectors, made money, “educatedly” guessing what direction market prices, currencies, etc. would take and buying and selling paper at huge profits… they produced nothing, or rather little but identifying potential windfalls for themselves and clients

3. The finance industry in general went of of control in 2006 and 2007 (especially) and the huge bank bailouts in effect stabilized the system but also saved those who were making some mischief

4. The $ 25 billion made by these speculators was more than the sum of salaries of all kindergarten teachers in the US combined; most if not all of the income they moved around in their direction [benefited people who were already wealthy and to the top financiers themselves],

5. There are many defenses for financial “heroes” who detected shifts in market forces, acted in some ways as entrepreneurs: they generated money for investors, they were just exercising their powers of prediction, they also had a lot to lose etc. Trillions of dollars were lost in savings and jobs as a result of their mistakes [they took a disproportionately lit hit compared with millions of more vulnerable Americans]



Income inequality

Much has been written about income and wealthy inequality in the United States. You probably know the round figures (illustrated in the graph above for 2007, but not much has changed in 7 years): 1% of the population owning 34% of the wealth and the next 9% owning 36%, for a total of 70% of the wealth held by 10% of Americans. The Bottom 50% of the population holds 2.7% of the wealth. (perhaps the 9% who share roughly the same % of the wealth as “the 1%” – about 35% each—should be jealous!).

We will be discussing the closing gap of income inequality between the U.S. and Brazil, the latter another very large economy with the reputation for even more inequality. Using the Gini index of inequality Brazil ranked 120th of 133 countries studied, but the U.S. was 80th. This gap has closed somewhat. Neither country is at all competitive with countries like Canada or most of the European countries.

But wait—a contrarian question might be “so what”? Throughout history a very small percentage of the population owned vastly disproportionate shares of the material resources of society, particularly in the post hunter-gatherer populations, and dramatically so in most of the centuries since the rise of the first urban civilizations about 3000 to 2500 BCE. Between about 1895 and 1995, there was a gradual shift toward slightly more widespread dispersion of wealth throughout the industrializing world (mostly Europe and North America), but in the U.S. the trend has reversed in the past 20 years.

 ANNUAL SHARE OF THE T0P 1 % 1910 TO 2010

A particularly striking statistic is the trend for “1%” followers is to look at their share of the national income over the last 70 years. Between 1940 and 1980 this share fluctuated between 10 and 15% of INCOME (not wealth). Between 1980 and 2007 that share went from about 10% to 20%. Otherwise put, in 1980 income from wages, salaries, and investment yield increases for every $1000 of American income went from $10 for the top 1%– one out of every hundred Americans—to $20, an approximate doubling. Although it may be even more troubling in fairness and utilitarian terms that similar increases in income occurred for the top 10% of Americans, the focus of the left to center commentators (and Occupy Wall Streeters) was on the ONE PERCENT. That seems to be where the drama lies. Think again now: 1%+> 20% of income, 10% => 40% of income and the bottom 40% (2 lowest quintiles) shared 9% repeat 9% of the income of the country. This is a lot of numbers to absorb, and more detailed breakdowns and explanations and conclusions can be found in numerous sources.

What we want to argue HERE is that yes, clearly there is a dramatic shift of wealth going on in the direction of a small group at the top. America in this sense MIGHT be said to not only becoming more like a typical Third World country, or like many societies throughout history going back through the Middles Ages to ancient times, but also that the U.S. is becoming dramatically less equal in income along several lines of measurement in the past 30 years and compared with the 60 years before that.

Again we pose the question, “So what?” It may seem self-evident that this is not a good thing, that more equality is better, but this is not universally agreed upon. It will be good to hone in on the arguments (the very most important ones—and unusual) for both or several points of view on this!